Jan 21 2013
Believe it or not, there’s far more empty land in Sihanoukville than there is developed land. Huge areas of flat terrain are used for growing rice or grazing, while the hillsides surrounding the town are largely left untouched. If you want to get a taste of rural Cambodia, but remain within minutes of the attractions and amenities of Sihanoukville, here’s how to do it on a rental motorbike.
The best place to start your exploration of rural Sihanoukville is at Otres beach. From there, just ask for directions to Wat Otres. If you pass a sign pointing towards the Otres Market, you’re going in the right direction. Just continue along the wide, smooth gravel road for about 5 or 10 minutes until you come to the entrance to Wat Otres. Although not the most picturesque of the three Sihanoukville wats (temples), Wat Otres and surrounds is definitely worth a visit, but we’ll skip it for today and take a left instead.
Wat Otres is the last development of any size you’ll see from here, and the dirt road looks like it continues on forever into the distant hills. Actually though, it’s a back road into Sihanoukville that gets a bit steep and bumpy in places, but is passable in the dry season even on a 110CC rental motor bike. At least it was last year.
After you’ve crossed this rickety looking timber bridge, you’re well and truly in rural Sihaoukville. You may pass an occasional motorbike, but most of the traffic on this road is cows.
I was expected to meet friends at the estuary the day I took these photos, so I reluctantly refrained from taking this road all the way back to town. Instead, I turned off on a remarkably wide and well-groomed road that looked like it continued far into the distant hills. The plan was to take the road far enough to see if it in fact did leave the plains, but I stopped in my tracks when a modest sized walled-in property caught my eye. Here in the middle of flat, treeless rice paddies and pastures was a virtual jungle of orchards.
I got off my bike to take a closer look, but the property was so thick with papaya, mango and other fruit trees, I couldn’t see very far inside; a man came to the gate on his motorbike and he invited me in to have a look around.
I may never know when he created his self-sustaining wonderland or why, but what I saw just amazed me. Aside from his orchard and gardens, he had what looked like fish ponds and even his own little pagoda. His house, though, was the real show stopper. A classic brick and tile Khmer-style home, it was built on stilts in the middle of a moat.
I’d trade homes with him in a heartbeat, but he and his wife seemed like happy and contented people, so I doubt they’d trade their miniature paradise for Hun Sen’s beach house, much less my modest home. After thanking the man and his wife for his hospitality and doing my best to make them understand how much I admired their home and lifestyle, I took my leave.
How long does a tour of rural Sihanoukville like this take to complete? Frankly, I got so caught up in my little adventure, I lost track of time, but it began when I realised I had about 45 minutes to kill before I was due for our picnic at the estuary and ended when I arrived 45 minutes late. Since the estuary is only a five-minute motorbike ride from Otres beach or about half an hour from downtown Sihanoukville, I can say with confidence that it doesn’t take long.
As close to Sihanoukville as it is, rural Sihanoukville is a lot further away if anything goes wrong; you are probably better off travelling in a group on separate motorbikes. If you have a phone and the number of your accommodation handy, all the better. That way, there will be somebody who knows where you are and can translate for you if your motorbike breaks down or you have an accident.
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